Saturday, October 22, 2011

Traditional Korean Hairdos

Ancient Asian cultures seemed to have quite a bit of a fetish for hair, often requiring women to wear wigs, or spend hours arranging their locks into a combination of coils and chignons.

The Koreans, however, were unique in their obsession with the use of braids for hairstyling. At the height of 18th century fashion, they were probably the Asian counterpart of the French in Europe, with their demand for white powdered wigs and increasingly towering coiffures:

Now this is a hairstyle I just don't get. It's called keun meori, and was worn only by royals. To achieve this look, a huge bundle of braided hair was first wrapped around the head, before a wooden attachment (carved to resemble hair) was affixed to it. There is an excellent video here (in Korean) for those who are interested to know how to make it, click on the button below the picture.

Also, a pretty good description of the various other Korean hairstyles can be found at Ask a Korean!

You will see, that the staple of every hairstyle is the braid. The most basic daeng'gi meori is a simple braid tied with a ribbon at the end. This is twisted and wrapped into a bun at base of the head to create a jokjin meori. To create the royal hairdos or the gisaeng's eon'jeun meori, you then wrap another huge, long, fat braid around the braided bun, fold it at the top, and pin it at the bottom. The bigger you want your hair to be, the more braids you can add.

See Culture Content here for how to make the eon'jeun meori and here for the queen's eo'yeo meori. Again, click on the small button below the image. One thing that the video doesn't show is how the braids are fastened and held together; I guess they use some pins or hair ornaments/sticks to keep it in place.
Modern takes on the gache have made it a lot more sophisticated: if anyone watched the various productions of Hwang Jin Yi, the detail and variety of the wigs were incredible:
These braids seem to be fastened around a metal/plastic? stand, which is then placed on the head for support. If you watch this video of a lady getting dressed up for a photo package in Korea, you will see how the wig comes on a stand and is positioned around the head. This ridiculous getup that resembles a funeral wreath illustrates it more clearly. Braid around a braid around a braid.
Because I have no idea how to make such a stand, or how to keep the hair in position on it, I decided to do things the traditional way and braid some bundles of Kanekalon hair fibre before wrapping them around each other. I got 48 inches worth of jumbo braid fibre from ebay for making dreadlocks, but it has yet to arrive, so more updates after experimenting with the material later on.

In the meantime, some weirdly interesting pictures of gache that I found online:
Lady Gaga looking bizarre as usual in a gisaeng wig. I'm surprised that she didn't go for the more outlandish keun meori...
Or a more hair-raising design.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hanbok Project Part V: Making the Chima

The skirt, in comparison to the jeogori, is really simple to make. First of all, you have to decide what kind of skirt you want; there are two types, pul-chima, with a separated back, or tong-chima, with a seamed back (like a modern skirt). In ancient times, the chima was simply made out of a piece of rectangular cloth wrapped around the waist/bust depending on the fashion of the period. The length of cloth was gathered or pleated and attached to a waistband with ties that fastened around the trunk of the body.

The width of the waistband changed throughout the years, eventually becoming a form of breast-binding in the 19th/20th century as I mentioned previously. The A-line shape of the skirt was more dependent on the numerous types of undergarments worn under the chima than the cut of the skirt itself; traditionally, women wore bloomers-type pants over three pairs of increasingly smaller pants and a loin cloth. Up to seven layers of undergarments were worn under the chima apparently! Upper class women would also wear two kinds of underskirts for formal occasions, thereby attaining an even more voluminous silhouette. Without the undergarments, the rectangular chima would look like this when worn:

Straight, tubular, and flat. Of course, you could create more volume by using more cloth and pleating furiously at the waistband; I tried 2.5-3 metres of cloth for the last one and it did work quite well, albeit being a lot more expensive. Also, if there are too many pleats, they tend to bunch up under the jeogori, making a nasty bulge around the bustline.

These days, however, the chima is constructed like a panelled or gored skirt, allowing for more flare and volume as well as more economical expenditure. The rectangle piece of cloth is cut up into triangular panels, which are then sewn together to form a circular stretch of cloth. To do this, first get your waist/bust measurement, and make yourself a rectangular waistband that wraps comfortably around your body. Next, take your waist/bust measurement and divide it by four. This should be the length of your skirt panel at the top. Measure the distance from your bust/waist to where you want the hemline to be, and draw a straight line perpendicular to the first line with this measurement. Finally, think about how wide you want the chima to be at the bottom and draw a line parallel to and at least 10cm longer than the line on top. Connect the top and bottom lines together at the sides, and you should end up with a triangular trapezium like this:

Cut out 6 panels of this thing. If you want a more voluminous skirt, either cut out more panels (but in my opinion, anything more than 6 necessitates too many seams around your chima and therefore should be avoided), or increase the length of the top and bottom lines. If you want to do 4 larger panels instead of 6, add 10 or more cm to each panel (waist/bust-line ÷ 4, + 10cm) and accordingly increase the length of the bottom line to match. Precise calculations aren't really needed, you just have to ensure that the top line of your skirt is longer than your waistband to allow for some pleating, and that the bottom line is longer than the top to produce an A-line silhouette. When you have cut out 6 panels, it would look this this:

Sew them up together using a french seam (take into consideration twice the seam allowance, if you use this), hem the bottom using slipstitch / double-rolled hem on the machine, and you are done! Last of all, attach this fabric to the waistband, pleating evenly across at the top. If you want it to be seamed at the back, sew the first and last panels together, but then you have to make sure you can get into the skirt by putting in an invisible zip, or by leaving a small slit open at the top.

For my chima, I used a purple charmeuse satin, topped with a layer of black nobang fabric. The satin has a slightly softer drape than Korean silk/satin, but it works as well if you have a proper petticoat to give it some structure. I had to get a microtex needle to sew it though, because it was too slippery and finely woven to work with the normal needle size. While doing the french seams, keep pressing and steaming to get a flat seam. Both the nobang and satin go beautifully flat when ironed with steam unlike the duchess satin, so no problems there. This is the nobang with the french seams and hem on the wrong side:

The satin charmeuse:

And a picture of the finished chima. I'd still like to add some gold foil trim to the skirt for a bit more decoration, and get some norigae pendants attached, but for now, here's the finished product minus the dongjeong:

Proper photoshoot pictures to come later, and a post about hair.